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Since my posts to their forum keep getting deleted, I’ll post here.

Here’s what happened:

August 10: I created a free account (nriley).

August 12: Happy with the service, I created another free account for my father (griley).

Because I liked the service so much, I decided to upgrade to a paid service—supporting automatic failover and more features.

August 27: I created an account the two of us could share (riley) and attempted to upgrade it to paid, after which I planned on deleting the individual accounts, so there was no interruption in service. Despite this thread, which makes it pretty clear their customers are asking for additional payment providers, the only choice is PayPal.

Only after attempting to pay via PayPal, I got an email that PBXes required my PayPal account be verified (that is, linked with a bank account). I’ve never had any other payee require I have a verified PayPal account, but I imagine they’ve had their share of fraud, so I understood. I don’t trust PayPal with my primary bank account information, so I ended up using a separate bank account for the purpose. This took a few weeks as I had to get the bank account set up for online access so I could observe the PayPal deposits.

While PBXes ordinarily provides absolutely no way to contact them without paying them money (via PayPal) first, PayPal does require a contact email address be included in the transaction receipt; I emailed this address asking about other payment methods, but received no response.

Over the intervening weeks, PBXes “discovered” that I had multiple accounts created and began to automatically disable them for TOS violations.

  • August 31: Received an email that griley would be disabled (same name/email/postal address as riley).
  • September 1: Received an email that riley would be disabled.
  • October 1: Received an email that nriley would be disabled (different name/email/postal address from griley and riley).

Keep in mind the riley account had never been used (except for my abortive attempt to pay for it). The original two accounts, nriley and griley were in use by two different people (myself and my father) so they didn’t violate the TOS at all. If I really wanted to violate the TOS, do you think I would have used the exact same, valid name and address information!?

Here’s what the account blocking email looks like:

we noticed that you created more than one account at PBXes.                     
That is welcome but also creates considerable load on our servers.              
Better would be to stay under a single account as written in our                
Terms of Service.                                                               
You can delete or upgrade the additional account                                
to paid within the next 5 days. Otherwise we are going to disable it.           
Thanks for your cooperation.                                                    

What is not clear from this are some properties of a “disabled” account:

  • If you try to call a phone number associated with this disabled account from another PBXes account, the call does not go through, even if the call would not ordinarily be routed through PBXes.
  • You can’t reuse any SIP trunk associated with this disabled account in another account.
  • You can’t view or edit any settings associated with the disabled account to remove this trunk or copy the information to another account.
  • You can’t even delete the account.

So, not only was my father’s account blocked, but I was unable to call his phone number from my PBXes account.

Eventually I got the bank account added to PayPal, and the shared account paid for, then PBXes had its own verification which took a further few days, which thankfully happened in time for me to cancel nriley and move over to riley without any interruption in service. My father had no such luck; as you can see above, he was without phone service for nearly a month.

After getting the paid account set up, I made three requests via messages on PBXes’ forum (since there was no other way to contact PBXes short of paying for support, and several other similar account-related messages were responded to, for example this one).

  • On Friday, I asked if my father’s account could be unblocked so I could copy the settings out of it. This post was initially locked to replies without a response, but remained in the forum.
  • Today, I asked if my father’s account could be deleted so the trunk could be accessible to my account. This post was deleted without a response several minutes later.
  • Finally, I posted a longer version of the second post, which made it clearer my purpose was simply to make use of the account I had already paid for, as well as including conciliatory statements such as “I’m not trying to make any trouble” and expressing my frustration about the hoops I had to jump through. This post was deleted immediately, then shortly thereafter Friday’s post was deleted too with no relevant explanation.

So, my only choice was to pay for an account I did not intend to use, just for the “privilege” of deleting it.

Note at no point in this saga have I been personally addressed by any representative of PBXes/i-p-tel; just sent automated messages and left to wonder about their motivations, which at this point seem at best bizarre; at worst, malicious, bullying and extortionate (you must pay us more money to use an account you have already paid for). Certainly, it’s their company and their right, but I’d never treat a customer like this in my life.

All I can do is recommend other people stay far, far away from PBXes’ service. Of course, PBXes doesn’t offer refunds, so I’ve got to pay for a year of their service regardless, plus a month of service on griley just so I can delete the associated trunk.